White Castle Valentine's Day Image courtesy of BrandEating.com
By Kristen Oliveri

Valentine’s Day is upon us, so I feel compelled to discuss the importance of the holiday, given all the flak it seems to get. But first, let’s get something out of the way by stating the obvious: I am a woman. I have the ability to be sappy, cry during Super Bowl animal commercials, and I thoroughly enjoy long walks on the beach — the longer, the better.

That said, I am part realist and understand that Valentine’s Day is overhyped. While its origins do date back to the Christian martyr, St. Valentine, and can also be traced back to the Roman holiday Lupercalia, in recent years it has become little more than a glorified Hallmark institution, meant to bolster consumer sales, post-Christmas.

No matter. I still believe in showing a partner, a family member or a close friend how much you love them. Now, the beauty of Valentine’s Day is that it’s very much open to interpretation. Some believe in making a “grand statement,” while others prefer to be more understated.

Whatever the budget — or the sentiment — Valentine’s Day can be exactly what you need it to be.

Many years ago, when I was working at my first journalism job after college writing for a financial newsletter, there were a range of folks who all covered different beats. We all shared a very small, cozy “bullpen” together and became close pals.

I befriended a guy that we called “The Schnitz.” Schnitz was (and still is) an affable, burly fellow, who always kept us laughing with his off-color jokes and zany sense of humor. At the time, he had recently married.

I vividly remember chatting with a colleague about Valentine’s Day, sharing my hopes and dreams for what my then-boyfriend would get me; perhaps a night out on the town to see a Broadway show, or maybe he’d surprise me with the latest designer handbag and a box of expensive dark chocolate, I mused.

Then it dawned on me that I’d be tickled to hear what Schnitz, the newlywed, was planning for his wife. I made the terrible assumption that he wasn’t a romantic and was sure he’d even scoff at my question. It was quite the opposite.

“We’re going to White Castle,” he said.

“White Castle? You’re going to get her a sack of mini burgers on Valentine’s Day?” I asked, stunned. “Well, actually, every Valentine’s Day White Castle pulls out the white table cloths, a couple of candles and provides table service with reservations and everything. My wife and I love the place, so I’m taking her this year.” I felt like an idiot.

Valentine’s Day was almost two weeks away, and Schnitz had everything planned — place chosen, reservation made, and patiently awaiting the day of love to take his spouse out for something that was special to them as a couple.

Then I thought to myself, “hmmm, White Castle?!” I took to the Internet as fast as I could and there it was: White Tablecloth service at White Castle for Valentine’s Day. It’s worth noting, this incident happened many years ago and the burger chain is into this more so now than ever. (If you don’t believe me, check it out.)

Not everyone can be as cool as Schnitz, and not everyone’s partner will be as excited to spend Valentine’s Day at a fast food joint. Others, myself included, believe in a little luxury to celebrate the holiday.

I recently stumbled upon a travel deal for the Setai Miami Beach that sounded so decadently delicious, that I almost booked it immediately for my boyfriend and me, before cooler heads prevailed.

The hotel is offering a host of Valentine’s Day events and packages to choose from, but the one that really caught my eye was this “His” and “Hers” 5-course tasting menu, created by executive chef Mathias Gervais.

Picture this: you and your love sit down for a romantic candle lit meal accompanied by live violin music. Your meal begins with a complimentary glass of Taittinger Brut, Prestige Cuvee. Your table has rose petals strewn about, with glowing heart-shaped candles to set the stage for a divine meal. If you really want to let your hair down, you can add wine pairings by the glass, created by chef sommelier, Dwayne Savoie.

If that’s not enough, for dessert you can indulge in Ménage a Trois Red Velvet Heat — Valrhonna chocolate mousse, feuillantine and raspberry crémeux, and a selection of petit fours. Before you leave, you will receive a complimentary rose, and special strawberry and rose macaroons for the road.

If it sounds indulgent, it’s because it is; the entire experience costs $145 per person (tack on even more for the wine pairings). It’s worth mentioning they have a spa event to boot, which includes a 60-minute Couples Ancient Balinese Massage, followed by a 30-minute Love Bath Ceremony.

But, I digress.

While the Setai Miami Beach is the polar opposite of White Castle, I think the core message is the same. It’s all about taking timeout from your busy life to celebrate your love and to offer appreciation for your relationship.

So whether it’s a decadent, culinary trip to Miami, tableside service at White Castle, or a home cooked meal with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck…it’s all about the sentiment.

And that, my fellow New Yorkers, is why Valentine’s Day matters.

I’m just hoping my boyfriend reads this column before it’s too late.

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